Dad on Anzac Day
My dad was a soldier, from the day he enlisted till the day he died; the army was his blood.
On Anzac morning, at four years old, I would run to the front of the house to watch my dad and the marching band go by. I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to join him. From eight I would be wearing beanies and leg warmers to keep out the cold, too young to join them for breakfast.
Dad fought in Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam. He left for Vietnam when I was 2. I don’t remember him leaving, but I remember him coming home. I was 3 and there was a big kerfuffle about getting to the airport to bring daddy home.
I wondered what a daddy was.
We went on a big tarmac and two soldiers came towards us, I tugged on my mothers hand ‘which one is my daddy?’ A big man scooped me into his arms and held me for the longest time.
He was awarded a bronze star from the US government for bravery. His friends stood at his funeral and talked about how he held back enemy fire all night to save their lives. An old soldier knelt at his grave and poured a bottle of rum into the earth. ‘This is for you Blacky,’ he said. ‘Thanks.’
‘It’s the nightmares’ he told me, opening a can of beer, ‘that make it the hardest. I saw things in Vietnam that I want to forget.’
He never did forget but he never told us either. Of all the wars and bullets my father dodged it was the surgeon’s knife that killed him.
We held a funeral befitting a soldier and much loved man.
I’ll always remember how he woke us with a whistle and a dance on Saturday mornings. How he claimed ice cream after 10pm had no calories. How he pondered the meaning of life.
The bugle played ‘The Last Post’ at his funeral, so on Anzac morning as I march in his honour with his medals on my heart, I think of my dad. I march for my dad. I march for peace. I march for all of the soldiers that were willing to make that sacrifice.
Rest in Peace Dad.
We love you.
Moni and Mac went up in a plane
They tumbled out with a 'chute
Moni and Mac sailed back to earth
It really was a hoot
March 24th 2012. Monica Batiste.
Skydiving was not one of things I dreamt of, but I’d been watching them sail onto our Suttons beach whilst we did yoga, and it looked so joyful.
‘I have an idea,’ I said to my class one day. ‘I’m going to parachute to class.’
‘Great idea’ said Peggy, ‘and you can tandem with my hubby, he’s one of the sky divers here.’
And so it was set for my birthday in 2012. For the rest of that year I watched them glide and heard the ‘woohoo’s whilst we did meditation and Namaste.
The year rolled into 2012. At midnight I sat up in bed and gasped, ‘This year I’m jumping out of a plane,’ and went back to sleep.
February came. ‘Have you booked it yet?’ asked Peggy.
I swallowed. ‘No’
March arrived. ‘Better get to it,’ she said. ‘They get booked out you know.’
I dialled the number. ‘Can we land on Sutton’s beach?’ I asked. ‘Cause that’s where my class is, they’ll be waiting for me.’ I added dreamily; ‘I’m going to parachute to class.’
The receptionist held back a yawn. ‘We can’t predict the landing beach’ she said. ‘We will let you know on the day.’
I visualised landing at Suttons. I told everyone about it. The days ticked by until it arrived. I woke up and reminded myself to breathe.
I wore the boots and jeans that took me safely through Europe. I wore a shirt of happiness. We got to the office.
‘We’re not landing at Suttons’ she said as she pushed paper work towards me. My dream crashed to the earth. ‘We will be landing at Bells. Sign here please.’
But my yoga class is at Suttons? I can’t land on the other side of the peninsula.
‘Come back to the counter please, you forgot to fill out this part.’
The tears knocked on my eyes. But my friends will be at Suttons.
‘Do you want insurance? No we can’t cater to individual preferences. You wouldn’t want anyone to crash just because you want to land there would you?’ She smiled with her teeth. The room laughed as my knees trembled. I will be landing to no one. I have no friends. The room became a giant parachute zooming to earth.
‘And which package would you prefer?’
‘I don’t know,’ I answered weakly. I want to go home.
‘Do you want photos or the DVD?’
My voice wouldn’t work. My hubby took over. ‘We’ll take this one.’
The receptionist looked at me and took my paper work, ‘I think we might put you on a later flight.’ She said. ‘Go away and come back in an hour.’
My husband took me out of the room of eyes and to a coffee shop. ‘But no one will be there’ I sobbed. ‘That wasn’t the dream.’
‘It will be all right’ Andy said. ‘Sometimes dreams take a curve but they still turn out all right. Your friends will go to Bells, they will. I’ll be there too.’
‘Are you sure?’
I texted my friends. I drank two and half cups of tea with too much sugar and breathed. ‘We will come’ they promised. ‘We will even leave yoga early to be there.’
I smiled and swallowed my tears. ‘Ok, let’s go back.’
When I arrived the group was being dressed for their tandem. A beautiful blonde Theresa asked if she was my partner. I smiled, ‘my best friends name is Teresa. But I’m not your partner. I’m friends with Peggy, I’m with her husband, Corey?’ my heart banged. ‘Is he here?’
She frowned and looked at the board ‘oh you mean Mac.’
A huge American with camouflage pants and a happy bandana came past ‘Are you Corey?’
‘Gidday’ said a smiley face. ‘You must be Monica?’
‘Corey!’ I smiled with relief and hugged him. on came the belts.
‘They’re loose’ I said. ‘I’m going to fall into the sky.’ I’ve seen a thousand movies where someone falls out of a plane and the skydivers turn into the shape of a bullet, shoot straight for them, grab hold, open their parachute and land safely to ground. ‘Will you do that?’ I asked.
‘Do what?’ Corey asked.
‘Never mind.’ But I knew he would.
We climbed into the tiny plane and sat hip to hip. There was no room for cups of tea or biscuits. ‘Where’s the door?’ I gulped as my voice rose. ‘There isn’t a door?’
‘It’s up there?’ said one of the other victims. Pointing to a plastic roller door like one that might hold out the breeze on a cool day. ‘See, it rolls down like this.’
It rattled as we took off.
We reached 2000 feet. ‘I’m going to attach some belts to you now,’ said Corey.
‘Are you sure you got me?’ I asked. ‘You sure?’
‘We’re going to practice’ he said. ‘When we jump out, you gotta lean back like this, like a banana or the cobra pose, you got it? Lean your head back, kick her legs back and away we go.’
Banana? Cobra? Oh god. Breathe. The planes voice deepened as we climbed another 2000 feet.
‘Now I’m gonna put the rest of the belts on, okay? You gotta sit on my hips like this’ I looked around and all the passengers were climbing onto their tandems. The plane got smaller and the air thinner.
It felt tight. I wriggled. ‘You got me?’
‘I got you.’ Corey switched on his wrist cam. ‘Now Monica, do you wanna sky dive with me?’
‘Yes’ I said.
We climbed to 14000 feet.
The roller door flew up and a raging wind entered the cabin.
I was pushed forward. The couple in front of me rolled off the bench and sat on the edge of the plane with their feet dangling into the sky. I pressed back into Corey.
‘Let go of my arms Monica. I need them to steer. Remember? Banana.’
The first couple fell out of the plane.
My heart sped.
I pressed deeper into Corey as he wriggled us to the edge of the bench.
We fell to the floor
I cringed to the edge.
There was no banana.
We plunged into the atmosphere.
The shock of a hundred tons of air slapped me in the face and body.
Air sucked into my body.
My chest squeezed
My skin flapped like a blanket in a tunnel wind.
Sam the photographer was in front of me taking photos. He looked like a scuba diver with the camera cord in his mouth. I felt like a fish in the ocean. I could see him, but I couldn’t respond. We fluttered as we faced each other. I was nothing but a whoosh of air.
Corey pulled the cord.
We catapulted upright.
‘Take off your glasses Monica’
I took off my glasses and wiped my eyes. Breath moved into my lungs. It was beautiful. The clear ocean beneath us, a parcel of sand and spaces of green earth.
I could see my friends, I laughed and waved. ‘Hello, it’s me, can you see?’
We floated to earth and landed perfectly. I lay on the ground, smiling. Bliss. Alive. Breathing.
‘You can get up now Monica’
‘Come on,’ said Corey, giving me a gentle push. ‘Up you get.’
I staggered up and my friends cheered. I curved towards them, I had faced mortality.
‘Champagne?’ offered Jacki. I took a sip.
‘Food?’ asked my husband. I shook my head. My stomach was as tight as a nut.
We cheered and hugged. Life was sweet.
Corey came over and we had a group hug.
‘I fell out of a plane and survived.’
I am a yoga teacher, author and artist.
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